Rohingya children are exposed to alarming risks of trafficking, sexual abuse and child labour due to lack of schooling and widespread desperation of people in the overcrowded makeshift settlements in Cox’s Bazar, international aid group Save the Children has warned.
“There are huge child protection concerns in the camps. A lot of desperate, hungry children are running around alone in crowded, chaotic settings where anything could happen,” said Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
“It’s a child protection disaster waiting to happen. This kind of situation leaves children, who’ve already seen and experienced things that no child should ever see, at a hugely increased risk of exploitation like trafficking, sexual abuse and child labour,” she said at a press conference in a city hotel yesterday.
Helle, also former prime minister of Denmark, who came to Bangladesh on October 19 on a three-day visit, observed the situation of the displaced Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar makeshift camps the next day.
She met the press yesterday to share her experience from this visit, Rohingya response plan, and how Save the Children was working here to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from any harm.
The visit of Schmidt, who oversees humanitarian and development programmes reaching 55 million children in around 120 countries, reinforced mobilisation of the urgently needed resources to provide life-saving humanitarian support to the displaced people, especially the protection of children in Cox’s Bazar and host communities, the aid organisation said in a statement.
More than 450,000 school-age Rohingya children are currently out of school in Bangladesh, including 270,000 who have arrived here since August, according to Save the Children.
“One of the best ways we can protect children in this situation is to get them into classrooms; a safe space where they can learn, and can also benefit from things like psychosocial support and hygiene promotion. In a crisis like this, education is incredibly important for children.”
Thorning-Schmidt expressed grave concern over the number of separated and unaccompanied children.
Mark Pierce, country director of Save the Children, Bangladesh, said more support would be needed for children in winter due to high risk of pneumonia.
By next year, Save the Children will provide support of $90 million to address many issues involving Rohingya refugees, especially aiming to protect and improve the children’s lives, he added.